Pencak silat star puts sports fame on his shoulders

FILE – Philippine athlete Mary Francine Padios earns silver in the Pencak Silat tunggal female competitor at the 30th SEA Games in Subic, Zambales on Tuesday, December 3, 2019. RELATED PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

MANILA, Philippines—The difficult part of Mary Francine Padio’s goal as an athlete is not winning medals.

The 19-year-old Padios has already proven herself in all sports, pencak silat. She is currently the Southeast Asian Games gold medalist in her event and won bronze at the 2022 Pencak Silat World Championships held in Malacca, Malaysia, in August.

But more than winning tournaments and performing in front of crowds, Padios also wants pencak silat to shed its obscurity and rise to the level of mainstream sports.

“More than competing and winning medals, I want to help popularize our sport,” Padios said after seeing action in the women’s Seni (artistic) singles at the start of the 8th Women’s Martial Arts Festival on Saturday.

Indonesian martial arts has several sub-disciplines but is generally a fighting style where athletes can use any part of the body to attack any part of the body. The sport uses grappling, striking, throwing and even weapons and also takes the form of competitions.

Seni has two weapons – a knife and a stick – and an empty hand where the power and speed of combat movements such as punches and kicks will be measured in an artistic routine.

“Pencak silat is very unique and very different. This is not an attacking type of sport and focuses more on your ability to defend. You get more points with defense,” Padios said at the opening of the six-day festival for women in 11 martial arts.

Each Seni participant is given three minutes to perform without exceeding the time limit, and unlike other types of martial arts events, pencak silat artists are prohibited from shouting while performing the routine on the mat.

Over 600 female athletes, coaches and officials were at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum to attend the opening ceremonies of the first major multi-sport event hosted by the Philippine Sports Commission since the pandemic. INQ

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